Posted: March 27, 2018
Mark Twain famously observed that, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness”. Indeed, travelers for centuries have recorded reflections on the experience of living in unfamiliar places and being among people whose language, customs and appearances are different from their own.
Chief among the benefits of being immersed in an unfamiliar set of circumstances is the opportunity to gauge the differences and commonalities that mark the human condition: the values and beliefs that animate life, and the aspirations and dreams that infuse lives with purpose and meaning.
Living and studying in Cambodia provides an unparalleled opportunity to see how a country is dealing with the reality of living on a planet with finite resources that, in the absence of responsible stewardship, will not support a global population that is likely to reach 10 billion people by mid-century. Cambodia is beginning to make the transition into business, trade and commerce driven by information technology and the forces of globalization. It is fascinating to study a country in transition and maintaining its Buddhist traditions, while also learning how to forge an economy that can survive in a more integrated and competitive global economy. One can see the efforts to find the balance between conservation and development; and how best to use natural resources given the livelihoods that depend on them.
Living and studying in the small, Southeast Asian Kingdom of Cambodia is a cogent reminder that while the language, customs and practices may appear quite different than those with which most Americans are familiar, the challenges and choices that must be made are in many respects common to people worldwide. In Cambodia, you can almost feel the forces of modernity bump up against a traditional high-context society. Seeing and studying social change firsthand is an incredible experience when the Kingdom of Cambodia is your classroom.